In situ Burning Agreements in the First Coast Guard
Physical removal of all spilled oil from the
environment, while a preferred option, is often not possible because of
the dynamic nature of the environment in which the oil is spilled. In
situ burning is the combustion of oil in place, typically considered
on-water by containing oil in fire-resistant containment booms, but also
feasible on land and in marshes. It consumes tremendous volumes of oil
rapidly, and may be considered where the smoke plume will not affect
populated areas. Additional general information and additional references on
burning have been assembled by the Regional Response Teams I and II (RRT
I and II).
In Situ Burning Planning Mandate
Because of the potential benefits that
burning offers and the need for prompt decisions, the Clean Water Act
(as amended by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990) and the National Oil and
Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (NCP) specifically
require that Regional and Area Contingency Plans include applicable
pre-authorization plans for the use of burning agents and address the
specific contexts in which such products should and should not be used
(see 40 CFR §300.910), additionally, Area Contingency Plans are required
to preapprove specific countermeasures to reduce adverse spill impacts.
In situ burn preplanning is important to ensure burning agent use
decisions may be made rapidly, and implications of other laws and
regulations (such as the Clean Air Act) are addressed before the spill.
Summary of Agreements in the First District (RRTs I and II)
Because of planning mandates and potential benefits of rapid
decisions, several agreements have been drawn at the RRT I and II
planning levels to allow for swift decisions on in situ burning
use in specified zones. The following summary table and following
generalized protocols capture the key concepts of each agreement. You
should always refer to the original agreements for specifics on the
protocols and zones.
Agreement Area and Date Approved
OSC Decision Zone
Expedited Decision Zone
Case by Case Zone
Special Consideration Areas and agency to be involved
(New England, minus CT and VT)
[Note Region I agreement applies when burn ignited without first
applying burning agent]
> 6 mi
1-6 mi: decision of OSC and State OSC within Unified Command
Remainder of agreement area (inside 1 mile) decision is that of OSC
and State OSC in consultation with DOI/NOAA trustees, and involving
other parties as defined by state (i.e. fire chiefs, air quality
- State of Maine OSC must concur to
12 miles year round (Maine)
- Areas less than 20 feet deep (DOI
- Jeffrey's Ledge between 4/1-9/30 (NMFS)
- Stellwagen Bank year round (SBNMS
- Great South Channel between
4/1-6/30 and 10/1-11/15 (NMFS)
- Cape Cod Bay between 2/1-5/15
[Note Region II applies with or without burning agents]
> 6 nm
3-6 mi: OSC decision if wind decidedly offshore
Case by case decisions require concurrence of EPA, affected state(s)
and consultation with DOI and NOAA in the following areas: State
territorial waters, marine reserves, National Marine Sanctuaries,
National or State Wildlife Refuges, National Park Service units,
proposed or designated Critical Habitats, coastal wetlands
(including submerged seagrass and algal beds).
- Area Committees and agreement
signatories may establish exclusion zones (none defined as of
Common Protocols of In Situ Burning Decision Agreements (refer to
original for details)
- Affirm the OSC's authority (defined in the NCP) to use in situ
burning or burning agents without additional approvals or
consultations, in order to prevent or substantially reduce the
hazard to human life.
- Require the OSC to notify the RRT agencies of his decision to use
in situ burning as soon as practicable.
- Require use of recognized techniques, such as the use of
fire-resistant boom to contain and control the burn.
- Require adherence to health and safety requirements and thresholds
during the burn.
- Require burning in accordance with Endangered Species Act Section
7 consultations, and require specific consultation if endangered
species are seen in burn area.
- Require air plume monitoring (such as measuring of inhalable air
particulates, see SMART).
- Require provisions for residue collection.
- Require an OSC-arranged debrief following an in situ burn
use per the agreement.